In an article in the April 2nd, 2008 issue of Education Week, Andrew Zucker writes about how all too often we have a simplistic view of educational technology. He writes, “either it’s the greatest approach to education ever invented or it’s a waste of money. … Instead of taking sides, we should think about how to use digital tools well.”

We couldn’t agree more. Although Zucker focuses more on how technology can be used to facilitate goals well beyond increasing student achievement (a point with which we also agree), we also see great value in technology to improve students’ learning. The key is, just as Zucker says, how it is used.

As we discuss in Disrupting Class, all too often technology and computers have been crammed into the classroom as an add-on on top of the existing teaching processes. This is all we can expect from any organization; the mere implementation of technology won’t transform the classroom by itself.

And yet transformation is desperately needed. As Zucker writes:

(1) We need to transform American schools into higher-performing organizations, whether or not we use technology; (2) Digital technology provides a powerful toolkit, offering unique advantages (such as bridging time and distance, democratizing access to information and services, and leveraging exponential increases in computer power) that have helped transform other organizations, especially those based on information and knowledge.

He’s right on both. Technology also offers the possibility of customizing an education to the unique way in which each student learns. The way to get there, however, isn’t just to throw more technology into the classroom. If we want to move forward, the most natural way to do so is to introduce it disruptively—by letting it compete where there is no alternative for a student, which means no class or teacher option.

Disrupting Class and Zucker both point out that this is already happening—just witness the explosion of students taking online courses.

The classroom of the future is beginning to take shape—just not in the places we normally look. It’s time to take notice and change the conversation.


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.